Here are seven things that cost extra at Disney Cruise Line — and ways to avoid those costs if you’re trying to keep your budget in check.
There are drinking opportunities at every turn: pool deck beer stands, wine packages at dinner, thoroughfare bars, tasting classes, itinerant bartenders on Castaway Cay’s beach. Beers start at around $7 per serving, glasses of wine start at around $8, and cocktails start at around $10 — with prices rising many times that for special pours.
There is no compulsion to drink, many teetotalers cruise every day. But if you want to participate and stay on budget, you’re welcome to bring your own alcohol on board. Each adult (21+) may bring onboard up to 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750ml) or 6 beers (no larger than 12oz) at the start of the voyage AND at each port of call. These beverages must be packed in carry-on (unchecked) baggage.
There are a few rules as to where you can consume your personal alcohol on the ship, but if you plan on drinking a reasonable amount, you can make significant savings by bringing your own.
2. Shore Excursions.
Shore Excursions (in Disney lingo, Harbor Adventures) are planned off-ship activities. In various ports, this can include cultural exploration such as museum tours, wildlife experiences such as dolphin encounters, sporting activities such as hiking or kayaking, or more. These are nice but can add anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per person per excursion depending on the activity.
To save money you have two alternatives. First visit the ports on your own. Almost every DCL port stop has access to shuttles or taxis that will take you to the nearest town where you can explore at your own pace. Or, secondly, arrange a non-Disney harbor cruise. Many independent operators offer excursions similar to Disney, often at a lower cost.
3. Movie or theater snacks.
The Preludes snack bar is located on the theater level of all five Disney ships. They sell snacks like popcorn, candy, and sodas, all for an additional charge. But that’s not the only food you can take to the theater.
Head down to the pool deck before your show, grab a free soda and some fries or chicken nuggets, and you’ve got your meal at no charge.
4. Adult food.
Each Disney Cruise Line ship has one or two adult-only restaurants, which sometimes incur a sizable fee for dining.
Of course, to save money, you can skip these restaurants. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a more special meal in the regular dining rooms. Feel free to order multiple courses, order menu items from other rotating restaurants, or have your meal customized to suit your palate. Get your serving team as your ally to prepare the perfect meal for you at no extra charge.
5. Fancy Ice Cream.
Three of the Disney ships have dedicated ice cream parlors onboard: Dream (Vanellope’s), Fantasy (Sweet on You), Wish (Joyful Sweets). They have fancy flavors for a fee, but there’s also plenty of free ice cream on the ships.
A sundae is featured on almost every dessert menu in the main dining room. And free soft serve ice cream (always chocolate and vanilla, but often additional fruity flavors too) is available on each ship’s pool deck. A little creativity can make your free soft serve special. Get some cookies from the buffet and prepare an ice cream sandwich. Add some soft serve to a complimentary soda for a float. Bring a bowl of fruit or syrup from the buffet to top off your soft serve.
The Disney ships all have several gift shops with plenty of opportunities to spend. You can just skip the souvenirs. But if you want DCL merchandise, you should know that most of the inflight merchandise is also available online at shopDisney.com. Shop Disney often offers specials and discounts not offered on the ships, and they almost always have free shipping codes for orders over $75. For example, if you want a Disney Cruise Line t-shirt, you can get it off the ship for less money.
7. A porch.
Veranda is the Disney term for balcony. Cabins with verandas almost always cost more than ocean-view (porthole) or inside (no windows) cabins. A porch can be nice, but there are plenty of spots on deck to sit outside and watch the water. Especially on a short cruise, you can have an equally beautiful experience without spending hundreds or thousands of extra dollars on a deck.
Let us know what your favorite DCL money-saving tips are.